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Big Questions In Science

Harriet Swain (Author)

What is life about? How are men and women different? How did the universe begin? We all ponder these questions from time to time but some scientists spend their lives investigating them. Are they anywhere near finding answers? In this exciting new book, leading scientific thinkers address twenty of the really big questions that people have been asking for hundreds of years. The contributors include: John Sulston, who led the British side of the Human Genome Project and who offers his views on whether we can ever end disease; Susan Greenfield, Oxford University professor of pharmacology, who describes what she thinks is a thought; John Barrow, Cambridge professor of mathematical sciences, who tells us what is time; and American psychologist David Buss, who suggests why we fall in and out of love. Their answers are each put into context by more general commentaries discussing the differing views of other leading contemporary scientists and looking at how people have tackled the question in the past. The result is a breathtaking tour of scientific thought through the ages and a peek at some of the most cutting-edge and controversial research today. Packed with fascinating insights, it shows how science is investigating problems that affect us all on a large scale and suggests that we are closer to finding solutions to some of life's big questions than we might think.

Wonderful Life

Stephen Jay Gould (Author)

High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago. Called the Burgess Shale, it holds the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived - a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in incredible detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale might tell us about evolution and the nature of history.

The Darwinian theory of evolution is a well-known, well-explored area. But there is one aspect of human life which this theory of evolution fails to account for: chance. Using the brilliantly preserved fossil fauna of the Burgess Shale as his case study, Gould argues that chance was in fact one of the decisive factors in the evolution of life on this planet, and that, with a flip of coin, everything could have been very different indeed.

The Music Instinct

Philip Ball (Author)

Why have all human cultures - today and throughout history - made music?
Why does music excite such rich emotion?
How do we make sense of musical sound?

These are questions that have, until recently, remained mysterious. Now The Music Instinct explores how the latest research in music psychology and brain science is piecing together the puzzle of how our minds understand and respond to music. Ranging from Bach fugues to nursery rhymes to heavy rock, Philip Ball interweaves philosophy, mathematics, history and neurology to reveal why music moves us in so many ways.

Without requiring any specialist knowledge, The Music Instinct will both deepen your appreciation of the music you love, and open doors to music that once seemed alien, dull or daunting, offering a passionate plea for the importance of music in education and in everyday life.

Four Fields

Tim Dee (Author)

In his first book since the acclaimed The Running Sky Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields. Four fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and their natural and human histories. Four real fields – walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable and knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested and changing. Four fields – the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life – looked at, thought about, worked in, lived with, written.

Dee’s four fields, which he has known for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his Cambridgeshire garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie field in Little Bighorn, Montana, USA, and a grass meadow in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild, to look at and think about the way we have messed things up but also to notice how we have kept going alongside nature, to listen to the conversation we have had with grass and fields.

Four Fields is a profound, lyrical book by one of Britain’s very best writers about nature.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize

The Ash and The Beech

Richard Mabey (Author)

From ash die-back to the Great Storm of 1987 to Dutch elm disease, our much-loved woodlands seem to be under constant threat from a procession of natural challenges. Just when we need trees most, to help combat global warming and to provide places of retreat for us and our wildlife, they seem at greatest peril. But these dangers force us to reconsider the narrative we construct about trees and the roles we press on them.

In this now classic book, Richard Mabey looks at how, for more than a thousand years, we have appropriated and humanised trees, turning them into arboreal pets, status symbols, expressions of fashionable beauty - anything rather than allow them lives of their own. And in the poetic and provocative style he has made his signature, Mabey argues that respecting trees' independence and ancient powers of survival may be the wisest response to their current crises.

Originally published with the title Beechcombings, this updated edition includes a new foreword and afterword by the author.

Silt Road

Charles Rangeley-Wilson (Author)

At the foot of a chalk hill a stream rises in a silent copse, and is soon lost under the car parks and streets of the town its waters once gave life to. Captivated by the fate of this forgotten stream Charles Rangeley-Wilson sets out one winter’s day to uncover its story.

Distilled into the timeless passage of the river’s flow, buried under the pavements that cover meadow, marsh and hill he finds dreamers and visionaries, a chronicle of paradises lost or never found, men who shaped the land and its history.

I Contain Multitudes

Ed Yong (Author)

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE 2017 AND THE ROYAL SOCIETY INSIGHT INVESTMENT SCIENCE BOOK PRIZE 2017


THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Your body is teeming with tens of trillions of microbes. It’s an entire world, a colony full of life.

In other words, you contain multitudes.

They sculpt our organs, protect us from diseases, guide our behaviour, and bombard us with their genes. They also hold the key to understanding all life on earth.

In I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong opens our eyes and invites us to marvel at ourselves and other animals in a new light, less as individuals and more as thriving ecosystems.

You'll never think about your mind, body or preferences in the same way again.

'Super-interesting... He just keeps imparting one surprising, fascinating insight after the next. I Contain Multitudes is science journalism at its best' Bill Gates

Serving the Reich

Philip Ball (Author)

Serving the Reich tells the story of physics under Hitler. While some scientists tried to create an Aryan physics that excluded any ‘Jewish ideas’, many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime. Among them were world-renowned physicists Max Planck, Peter Debye and Werner Heisenberg.

After the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime: Debye claimed that he had gone to America in 1940 to escape Nazi interference in his research; Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bomb.

In a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime, here are human dilemmas, failures to take responsibility and three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology.

Theories Of Everything

John D. Barrow (Author)

The Holy Grail of modern scientists is 'The Theory of Everything', which will contain all that can be known about the Universe - the magic formula that Einstein spent his life searching for and failed to find. In this elegant and exciting book, John D. Barrow challenges the quest for ultimate explanation.

The Inflationary Universe

Alan H Guth (Author)

This classic Big Bang text neatly describes what happened after the bang. Yet, until recently, particle physicists and cosmologists were stuck on many questions that the Big Bang Theory still couldn't answer, primarily: If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, how could so much matter arise from nothing at all? Alan Guth's Inflationary Universe Theory answers these vexing questions. When NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer satellite measured the non-uniformities of the cosmic background radiation for the first time in 1992, the patterns agreed exquisitely with the theory's predictions.

Against Empathy

Paul Bloom (Author)

In a divided world, empathy is not the solution, it is the problem.

We think of empathy – the ability to feel the suffering of others for ourselves – as the ultimate source of all good behaviour. But while it inspires care and protection in personal relationships, it has the opposite effect in the wider world. As the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows, we feel empathy most for those we find attractive and who seem similar to us and not at all for those who are different, distant or anonymous. Empathy therefore biases us in favour of individuals we know while numbing us to the plight of thousands. Guiding us expertly through the experiments, case studies and arguments on all sides, Paul Bloom ultimately shows that some of our worst decisions – in charity, child-raising, criminal justice, climate change and war – are motivated by this wolf in sheep's clothing.

Brilliantly argued, urgent and humane, Against Empathy overturns widely held assumptions to reveal one of the most profound yet overlooked sources of human conflict.

Irresistible

Adam Alter (Author)

'Fascinating' Malcolm Gladwell
'Your sanity will thank you for reading it' Oliver Burkeman

Our world is filled with addictive experiences, from social media and messaging to rolling news and video streaming.

They affect our ability to relax, develop relationships and achieve meaningful goals.

Psychologist Adam Alter explains why we can't stop scrolling, clicking and watching.

And offers practical advice for using technology differently – and leading a happier life.

'Brilliant. Irresistible offers...much-needed solutions'
Susan Cain, author of Quiet

'Essential reading... Regain control of your time, finances and relationships'
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

'With great clarity...Irresistible digs down into exactly how technology has us hooked'
The Times

Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman

Richard P Feynman (Author)

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965, Richard Feynman was one of the world's greatest theoretical physicists, but he was also a man who fell, often jumped, into adventure. An artist, safecracker, practical joker and storyteller, Feynman's life was a series of combustible combinations made possible by his unique mixture of high intelligence, unquenchable curiosity and eternal scepticism. Over a period of years, Feynman's conversations with his friend Ralph Leighton were first taped and then set down as they appear here, little changed from their spoken form, giving a wise, funny, passionate and totally honest self-portrait of one of the greatest men of our age.

The Wolf Pit

Will Cohu (Author)

In 1966 Will Cohu's grandparents moved to Bramble Carr, a remote cottage on the Yorkshire moors. The summers and winters he spent there were full of freedom and light; only after childhood ended was he aware of the price the adults had paid for life in this most romantic of settings.


Navigating family tensions and the trials of growing up, Will describes the close-knit community of North Yorkshire and his family's place within it: the shepherd probing the head-high snowdrifts for his flock; the pub landlord obsessed with military uniforms; the village doctor lost in his love for the purple moorland; Will's glamorous RAF parents; and, at the centre of the story, his beloved but enigmatic grandparents.

The Wolf Pit is an enquiring love letter from Will Cohu to his family, and to a changing rural England that is passionate, frightening and funny.

Headhunters

Ben Shephard (Author)

How did the human brain evolve? Why did it evolve as it did? What is man’s place in evolution? In the final decades of the nineteenth century, these questions began to occupy scientists. With Darwin’s theory of evolution now accepted, modern neuroscience began.

Headhunters traces the intellectual journey of four men who met at Cambridge in the 1890s and whose lives interlinked for the next three decades – William Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Myers and William McDougall. It follows their voyages of discovery, taking the reader from anthropological field studies in Melanesia and archaeological excavations in Egypt to the psychiatric wards of the First World War. Their work ranged across fields that today carry a variety of labels – neurology, psychology, psychiatry, zoology – but which for these men formed part of the same enquiry: the search for a science of the mind.

A narrative-driven work of intellectual history and a compelling biographical study, Headhunters explores the big ideas about the brain, the nervous system and man’s place in history. In the process the book reveals how science actually works – the passions, the irrational flashes, the moments of insight; the big ideas that work – and the big ideas that turn out to be wrong. Acclaimed historian Ben Shephard takes the reader on an extraordinary intellectual journey – and arrives at some very modern destinations.

The Hunt for the Golden Mole

Richard Girling (Author)

This story is a quest for an animal so rare that a sighting has never been recorded.

The Somali golden mole was first described in 1964, but the sole evidence for its existence is a tiny fragment of jawbone found in an owl pellet. Intrigued by this elusive creature, and what it can tell us about extinction and survival, Richard Girling embarks on a hunt to find the animal and its discoverer - an Italian professor who he thinks might still be alive...

Richard's journey comes at a time when one species - our own - is having to reconsider its relationship with every other. He delves into the history of exploration and cataloguing and the tall tales of the great hunters, traces the development of the conservation movement and addresses central issues of extinction and biodiversity.

Cold Blood

Richard Kerridge (Author)

As a boy, Richard Kerridge loved to encounter wild creatures and catch them for his back-garden zoo. In a country without many large animals, newts caught his attention first of all, as the nearest he could get to the African wildlife he watched on television. There were Smooth Newts, mottled like the fighter planes in the comics he read, and the longed-for Great Crested Newt, with its huge golden eye.

The gardens of Richard and his reptile-crazed friends filled up with old bath tubs containing lizards, toads, Marsh Frogs, newts, Grass Snakes and, once, an Adder. Besides capturing them, he wanted to understand them. What might it be like to be cold blooded, to sleep through the winter, to shed your skin and taste wafting chemicals on your tongue? Richard has continued to ask these questions during a lifetime of fascinated study.

Part natural-history guide to these animals, part passionate nature writing, and part personal story, Cold Blood is an original and perceptive memoir about our relationship with nature. Through close observation, it shows how even the suburbs can seem wild when we get close to these thrilling, weird and uncanny animals.

Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation

Olivia Judson (Author)

If you have ever wondered why women always bite your head off or why one guy gets all the girls, if you have ever pondered why some men bring you balloons while others leave you their genitals, then Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation is the book for you. It explains all this and much more. It discloses the best time to have a sex change, how to have a virgin birth, when to seduce your sisters or eat your lover. Quirky and brilliant, it takes as its starting point all creatures great and small worried about their bizarre sex lives, and the letters they write to the wise Dr Tatiana, the only agony aunt in all creation with a prodigious knowledge of both natural history and evolutionary biology.

The Making Of Memory

Steven Rose (Author)

Steven Rose's The Making of Memory is about just that, in both its senses: the biological processes by which we humans - and other animals - learn and remember, and how researchers can explore these mechanisms. But it is also about much more.

When the first edition of this fascinating book won the Science book Prize in 1993, the judges described it as 'a riveting read...a first-hand account by a practicing scientist working at the forefront of medical research and Rose does not duck the issues which that raises.'

Now ten years on, research has itself moved forward, and Rose has taken the opportunity to fully revise the book. But this is more than mere revision. Where ten years ago he argued the case for research on memory because it is the most extraordinary of human attributes, Rose's own research has now opened the doors to a potential new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease undreamed of a decade ago, and in an entirely new chapter he describes how this potential breakthrough has occurred.

The Rise And Fall Of The Third Chimpanzee

Jared Diamond (Author)

More than 98 percent of human genes are shared with two species of chimpanzee. The 'third' chimpanzee is man. Jared Diamond surveys out life-cycle, culture, sexuality and destructive urges both towards ourselves and the planet to explore the ways in which we are uniquely human yet still influenced by our animal origins.

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